Why Iran Could Be the Real Loser in Iraq’s Intra-Shiite Struggle
By Mohamad Bazzi
September 13, 2022
On August 29, the Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he would withdraw from politics after months of failed attempts to form a new government. Thousands of supporters of the nationalist leader, who has emerged as a staunch opponent of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, surged into the streets in anger, clashing with Iraqi security forces, breaching concrete barriers around Baghdad’s Green Zone, and storming the seat of government. After dozens of people were killed, Sadr went on television and instructed his supporters to go home, easing—for the moment, at least—a political crisis that has paralyzed Iraq.
If today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order? At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence. Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion. Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low Seismicity, Seismic Hazard, or Seismic Risk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions. Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so? To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates. From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks. There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches. This paper tries to bring into focus some of the seismological factors which are but one set of variables one needs for quantifying the earthquake loss potential in eastern U.S. urban regions. We use local and global analogs for illustrating possible scenario events in terms of risk. We also highlight some of the few local steps that have been undertaken towards mitigating against the eastern earthquake threat; and discuss priorities for future actions.
Second, the US and South Korea are starting to drift apart on security perceptions. South Korea wants the US alliance mainly focused on North Korea while it continues to trade warily with China.
The US, however, is increasingly moving toward what the Biden administration has called ‘great power competition’ with China. South Korea is ambivalent about lining up openly against China, if only because it must live next to China and, thus, prefers a less antagonistic relationship.
But nuclear weapons have not otherwise spread across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, or Europe as a cascade model implies. This is because nothing is automatic about a step as momentous as developing nuclear weapons. South Korea, for example, has signaled since 1992, that it wants a denuclearized peninsula. It is only drifting toward nukes, because North Korea has adamantly refused to stop testing and building. Pakistan held off going nuclear until it felt it had no choice due to India nuclearization. The choice to build nuclear weapons usually reflects a deeply-felt security need.
In the Japanese case, South Korean nuclear weapons would not meaningfully change its security position. Indeed, South Korea and Japan do not cooperate well. But both are democracies, well-governed, and US allies. Their relations may be a cold peace, but a hot war between them is extremely unlikely. South Korea will not nuke Japan, nor vice versa. If Japan goes nuclear, it will be because of threats from North Korea and China. Similarly, South Korean nuclear weapons do not threaten Taiwan or Southeast Asia, so there is no reason to expect movement there either.
There is no reason to believe that a limited South Korean nuclear arsenal – very obviously designed around deterring North Korea after thirty years of exhaustion with Pyongyang’s nuclear shenanigans – would include sparking a cascade among Asian democracies.
North Korea is Backing South Korea into a Corner on Nuclear Weapons
More important is how North Korea and China will respond.
They will, of course, criticize it and call it destabilizing, aggressive, part of a wider American hegemonic conspiracy, and so on.
But this is crocodile tears and bad faith. If North Korea and China wanted a denuclearized region, there is much they could have done in recent decades to prevent this looming outcome.
The North Korean and Chinese position – that South Korea should remain non-nuclear – is akin to unilateral disarmament. This is a grossly unrealistic expectation, which Chinese elites particularly – because they are better connected to the rest of the world than the paranoid, secluded Kim regime of North Korea – should know. As North Korean nukes drive a wedge between the US and South Korea, it is only natural that South Korea would consider more radical options to defend. South Korea’s president, for example, suggested preemptive strikes on North Korean missile sites in a crisis. If North Korea and China reject this sort of talk, then North Korea could stop testing and give the region a breather to work toward a solution. Instead, it has done the opposite this year.
China had a choice. As North Korea’s patron since that country’s terrible famine in the late 1990s, China had the leverage to push North Korea to negotiate on nuclear weapons. It could have cracked down on North Korean money in Chinese banks, desperately needed energy imports, or sanctions violations. Beijing chooses not to do that. South Korea signaled its non-nuclear preferences again and again for thirty years. Yet still, China chose not to push North Korea very hard. And North Korea chose to gimmick negotiations for decades to buy time to develop its nukes.
In short, North Korea almost certainly played in bad faith – never intending to denuclearize, just flim-flamming negotiations to buy time to keep pushing forward. And China was never willing to really push North Korea, to really take sides against it to compel it to negotiate seriously.
So now, with South Korean cities extremely vulnerable to North Korean nuclear attacks, is it any wonder the South Koreans are thinking of counter-nuking?
So yes, the immediate decision to nuke up will be Seoul’s, and it will be criticized if it makes this choice. But the real reason, as in so many South Korean defense decisions, is North Korea and its relentless march toward nuclear weapons and missiles. Blame Kim Jong Un and his Chinese enablers.
Expert Biography: Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; RoberEdwinKelly.com) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University and 19FortyFive Contributing Editor.
Even international alliances can unravel when nations confront the insanity of a nuclear holocaust.
An illustration of this point occurred recently, after Vladimir Putin once again threatened Ukraine and other nations with nuclear war. “To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons resources at our disposal,” the Russian president said. “This is not a bluff.”
In response to this statement and to sharp UN condemnation of Russian nuclear threats, Chinese president Xi Jinping issued a public statement early this November, assailing “the use of, or threats to use nuclear weapons.” To “prevent a nuclear crisis” in Europe or Asia, he insisted, the world should “advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used” and “a nuclear war cannot be waged.”
Aren’t these two nuclear-armed nations currently aligned in their resistance to U.S. foreign policy? Yes, they are, and when it came to Putin’s war upon Ukraine, Xi refrained from suggesting a Russian withdrawal. But nuclear war, as the Chinese leader made clear, was simply not acceptable.
This was not the first time a Russian-Chinese alliance was ruffled by a dispute over the use of nuclear weapons. An even deeper conflict occurred during the late 1950s and early 1960s when, ironically, the roles of the two nations were exactly the reverse.
At that time, the Chinese government, led by Mao Zedong, was embarked on a crash program to develop nuclear weapons. In October 1957, China’s weapons program secured a major gain when the Russian and Chinese governments signed the New Defense Technical Accord, in which the Russians agreed to supplementing the nuclear assistance they had already provided to the Chinese by supplying them with a prototype atomic bomb, missiles, and useful technical data.
But Russian officials soon had reason to doubt the wisdom of assisting China’s nuclear weapons development program. As Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev recalled, the following month, at a Moscow conclave of Communist party leaders from around the world, Mao gave a speech on nuclear war that startled those in attendance.
According to the Soviet leader, the “gist” of Mao’s speech was: “We shouldn’t fear war. We shouldn’t be afraid of atomic bombs and missiles. No matter what kind of war breaks out―conventional or thermonuclear―we’ll win.” When it came to China, Mao reportedly said, “we may lose more than three hundred million people. So what? War is war. The years will pass, and we’ll get to work producing more babies than ever before.”
Khrushchev found Mao’s remarks “deeply disturbing,” and recalled with irritation: “Everybody except Mao was thinking about how to avoid war. Our principal slogan was ‘On with the Struggle for Peace and Peaceful Coexistence.’ Yet here came Mao . . . saying we shouldn’t be afraid of war.’ In early 1958, as Soviet doubts increased about the reliability of China’s leadership in dealing with nuclear weapons, Khrushchev decided to postpone shipment of the prototype atomic bomb to China.
Eventually, the Soviet government not only withdrew its assistance to the Chinese nuclear weapons program in 1960, but took steps that placed the Soviet Union at loggerheads with the Chinese leadership. Key among these steps was working out an agreement on a nuclear test ban treaty with the governments of the United States and Britain—an agreement that, in part, was designed to block the ability of China to become a nuclear power.
This Soviet shift toward a nuclear arms control and disarmament treaty with the West was bitterly opposed by China’s rulers, who were determined to develop nuclear weapons and, by 1964, succeeded in doing so. Meanwhile, the Sino-Soviet rift grew ever more heated, with the Chinese pulling out of the Soviet-dominated World Peace Council and ferociously competing with the Russians for leadership of the world Communist movement.
There are some lessons that can be learned from these incidents, in which major powers displayed signs of veering toward nuclear war. The obvious one is that even military allies might balk, at times, when they see an international confrontation slipping toward a nuclear disaster.
Another, less evident, is that nations with access to nuclear weapons are not necessarily restrained from threatening or waging nuclear war by the prospect of nuclear retaliation from other nuclear powers. Or, to put it another way, nuclear deterrence is unreliable. Above all, these events and others underscore the fact that, while nuclear weapons exist, the world remains in peril.
Unfortunately, none of the world’s nine nuclear powers has signed or ratified this nuclear weapons abolition treaty. Until they do so and, therefore, stop producing, stockpiling, and distributing nuclear weapons to other countries, the world will continue to live in a state of nuclear peril, subject only to occasional flashes of sanity by these same nuclear-armed nations.
Surely, people around the world deserve a better future.
Iran has begun producing enriched uranium at a second site, to a level one step away from weapons grade
Guardian staff and agenciesTue 22 Nov 2022 20.05 EST
The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed Iran is enriching uranium to 60% at a second plant, amid the breakdown of the nuclear deal with major powers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that Iran was also planning a massive expansion of its enrichment capacity.
Iran said earlier on Tuesday that it had started to enrich uranium to 60% at the Fordo site, having already done so at its above-ground pilot plant at Natanz for more than a year.
The increased enrichment was seen as a significant addition to its nuclear programme. Enrichment to 60% purity is one short technical step away from weapons grade, 90%. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran has enough 60% enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
Iran has always denied any ambition to develop a nuclear bomb, insisting its nuclear activities are for civilian purposes.
The move was part of Iran’s response to the UN nuclear watchdog’s adoption last week of a censure motion drafted by western governments accusing it of non-cooperation.
“Iran’s step is a challenge to the global non-proliferation system,” the statement on Tuesday said. “This step, which carries significant proliferation-related risks, has no credible civilian justification.”
This month, the IAEA has said it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. As recently as last week, the agency criticised Tehran for continuing to bar its officials from accessing or monitoring Iranian nuclear sites.
The world noticed the launch of the Satan 2 but the rare look at the Satan, NATO’s designation for the R-36M2, went largely unnoticed. Russian military blogger Dmitry Kornev captured still images from the video and posted them to his blog and twitter account on November 20. The images are an unprecedented look at the inner workings of one of the biggest deployed nuclear weapons in the world. The Satan missile is about 112 feet long and weighs just over 211 tons. America’s largest ICBM, the LGM-30G Minuteman III, is just short of 60 feet and only weighs around 40 tons.
The images showed off the interior of the missile where its nuclear warheads are stored. ICBMs are capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads. An ICBM is launched from the ground, arcs through the atmosphere, and descends at its target. As it descends, multiple warheads break off of it and hit their targets. Satan can carry 14 nuclear warheads.
This kind of detailed view of a deployed Russian nuclear weapon is unprecedented. It’s part of a new kind of nuclear brinkmanship that is becoming increasingly common. In the past few years, Russia has repeatedly reminded America that it has gigantic nuclear weapons.
The Kremlin plans to replace the R-36M2 with the RS-28 Sarmat, a missile NATO has called the “Satan 2.” It’s a missile Putin praised during a 2018 video presentation where he showed off a computer visualization of the nuke wiping out Mar-a-Lago. In 2020, Moscow declassified footage of the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever tested. The resultant fireball was five miles wide and the mushroom cloud was 42 miles high. Tensions between Russia and the West have gotten worse since the Kremlin escalated its war in Ukraine earlier this year. Putin has repeatedly invoked nuclear war when talking about Western involvement in the war.
At the same time, Russia and America are set to sit down in Egypt later this year to hash out the details of the New START treaty. New START is the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the two countries. It limits the amount of deployed nuclear warheads in the world with the aim of reducing that number over time. The treaty was in doubt several times during the Trump presidency and enforcement, which relies on both countries inspecting each other’s nuclear sites, stopped during the pandemic
The Hamas terrorist movement welcomed the attack on Wednesday, stating that Israel bears “full responsibility for the repercussions of the crimes of its army and the terror of its settlers against our Palestinian people, their land and their sanctities.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist movement called the attack a “natural response to the occupation.”
(RELATED) James Cleverly warns nuclear threat from Iran ‘more advanced than ever before’
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran is enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity at its Fordow plant as a part of an expansion of its enrichment capacity in defiance of objections raised by Western countries.
In a statement on Tuesday, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said: “Iran has started producing high enriched uranium – UF6 enriched up to 60 per cent – using the existing two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges in the Fordow fuel enrichment plant (FFEP), in addition to such production that has taken place at Natanz since April 2021.”
Weapons-grade uranium is 90 per cent enriched or more, according to a report by the BBC.
Under its 2015 nuclear deal with China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and the UK, Tehran was allowed to enrich uranium up to 3.67 per cent purity.
Mr Grossi added in his statement that Iran had installed more “cascades of advanced IR-6 centrifuges” and planned a “significant expansion of low enriched uranium production – UF6 enriched up to 5 per cent or up to 20 per cent – at Fordow” (which is near the north-central city of Qom) through those advanced centrifuges, reported CNN.
“Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities at the fuel enrichment plant in Natanz and now plans to install a second production building, capable of housing over 100 centrifuge cascades,” the statement added.about:blank
The IAEA statement came hours after Iran’s state media Press TV reported that Tehran had informed the UN’s nuclear watchdog that it would boost its uranium enrichment to the 60 per cent enrichment level.
For the last 43 years John Armbruster has been a seismologist with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. A veteran of what he describes as “a couple of dozen” quakes, he is interested in the seismic activity throughout the Pacific region in recent weeks.
However, does the amount of plate movements around the world in recent weeks as well as years to translate to New York City being more vulnerable, “These earthquakes are not communicating with each other, they are too far apart,” said Armbruster in an interview with PIX 11 News on Wednesday.
US claims China has fielded JL-3 sub-launched ballistic missiles in maritime area, bringing mainland US within closer range
By GABRIEL HONRADANOVEMBER 22, 2022Print
China is one step closer to turning the South China Sea into a sanctuary for its nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), a move that would put the continental United States within range of its JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the semi-enclosed and hotly contested body of water.
On November 18, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel Paparo acknowledged to military reporters in Washington that China has fielded its JL-3 SLBM on its six Type 094 SSBNs, giving it the capability to hit the US from waters closer to America’s shore.
Paparo emphasized that these SSBNs were built to threaten the US and that the US Navy is keeping close track of them.
A year ago, the Pentagon said that the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) would gain the capability to target the US from China’s coastal waters, with Paparo declining to comment when asked if China’s Type 094 SSBNs have conducted deterrence patrols close to Hawaii.
The JL-3 has an estimated range of more than 10,000 kilometers, which allows China to target the US “from a protected bastion in the South China Sea,” US Strategic Command commander Admiral Charles Richard told the US Senate Armed Services Committee this March according to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.
If true, the JL-3 is a significant improvement over the previous missile, the JL-2, which has a range of 7,200 kilometers. According to CRS, that gives China’s Type 094 SSBNs the ability to attack Alaska from the Bohai Sea. CRS notes that to strike the US West Coast, JL-2-equipped Type 094 SSBNs would have to be in waters east of Hawaii due to range limitations.
In response to the reports, China’s state mouthpiece Global Times last week slammed the US as having ulterior motives by hyping the “China Threat” to seek a greater presence in the Asia-Pacific in the form of more anti-submarine forces and its own Columbia-class SSBNs. It also claimed that spiking threat perceptions of China was a way for the US military to get more funding.
It emphasized that China maintains a defensive national defense policy and a military strategy of “active defense.” The Global Times report also noted that while China has no plans to expand significantly its nuclear arsenal, it will continue to modernize it amid the changing strategic security environment.
China’s nuclear doctrine relies on a robust SSBN fleet. In a 2016 Carnegie Endowment for Regional Peace report, Liping Xia notes that a no-first-use policy, minimum nuclear deterrence, counter-nuclear coercion and limited nuclear deterrence are critical features of China’s nuclear doctrine.
Xia notes that China’s SSBNs are essential to its second-strike nuclear capability and with fleet upgrades allow China to be more confident of its no-first-use policy.
Echoing this view, Fiona Cunningham notes in a 2020 article for The Strategist that China’s nuclear force structure is optimized to ride out an adversary’s first strike and retaliate against strategic targets rather than credibly threaten the first use of nuclear weapons.
Cunningham mentions that although Chinese leaders have debated changing China’s longstanding no-first-use nuclear policy from time to time, there is no sign that China plans to change it anytime soon.
The JL-3’s deployment will mark a significant upgrade to the survivability of China’s undersea deterrent. A 2018 Carnegie Endowment for Regional Peace report notes that the JL-2 SLBM’s limited range means it cannot reach the US if launched from Chinese coastal waters. The report says that China’s SSBNs would need to sail into the Western Pacific to hit the US mainland with the missile.
These vulnerabilities go against the basic philosophy of an SSBN, which according to the CSIS report is to hide in the ocean’s vastness so that it would be impossible to detect or predict its location.
As such, the JL-3’s introduction may allow China to implement a South China Sea “bastion strategy,” obviating the need for its SSBNs to sail into the Pacific to launch their SLBMs. In this strategy, China would use the South China Sea as a sanctuary for its SSBNs, with the area protected by land-based aircraft and missiles, naval forces and fortified islands.
Logistically speaking, it would be much easier for China to sustain short-range SSBN than open-water patrols with command and control facilities stationed in nearby waters.
As the South China Sea is straddled by major sea lanes of communication (SLOCs), the underwater noise environment makes it more difficult to detect China’s SSBNs, allowing them to hide amid the area’s unique underwater noise, thermal and acoustic features.